Saturday, November 24, 2018

South Africa Day 13

No more animals, no more scenic views for this day. We had been on the go for nearly two weeks. As I told the Irish girls, I need a day to paint my nails etc. They were quite amused. I think I did cut my fingernails. I am sure I did some plucking and trimming of hair that grows in wrong places. We sorted out packing for an early departure in the morning. It was a very pleasant day. R napped a good bit. I sat under shade with my tablet, reading your blog posts etc. While we had free beer and wine, I had a couple of g&ts while sitting outside. We even had a swim. No one seemed to take notice of two fat old men in the pool, but of course they would have, surreptitiously.


These are pretty birds.  Are they weaver birds?


There was cacophony in the morning as what I guess were weaver birds fed their young.


I think I played with camera settings to get this shot. Not too bad.


It is a tradition at the Buffalo Hotel to kiss the buffalo by standing on the bar and leaning over. I watched for a bit and realised the angle wasn't that great and so not much danger of falling down. The muscular bartender stayed below to catch anyone. I wanted to check his muscles and give an approving look with raised eyebrows and an oh, la la,  before I kissed the buffalo, but R gets embarrassed when I do things like that, so I did not. You can't really see his face, but he was nice looking and certainly capable of catching a falling damsel in distress and hopefully an older bloke.


I went outside to look around. I had never been outside the front of the hotel. There was a room to walk through where local people were dining. Two of the butchest looking dykes were just leaving after dinner with a couple of boys less than ten years old. Their children?  I don't know. It looked like it. I came back inside to see this lad arrive at the hotel. He asked our tour guide to play pool with him. He knew our tour guide's name, but our tour leader did not seem to know him. His shorts were terribly brief, and while I am not saying he is gay, I think so, but very straight acting. While there were plenty of men around watching rugby on the tv and drinking beer, it did seem to be the local place for gays and lesbians. I did ask the pool playing lad if I could take some photos and I bought him a drink. He told me his name, but it was a hard name to remember Afrikaans name.


Days have become confused. I think I have posted more days in South Africa than we were actually there. I will blame the cameras dates for photos being out of sync and confusing me.

There was an incident, involving me! So, ok, this happened the night before. Two men were chatting outside at a table, one smoking furiously. Later it turned out to be that the non smoking one was our tour guide in Kruger Park the next day. He had given up smoking and was now vaping. Good for him. I stood outside not far away at a tree table and a doe eyed African youth came up to me. I assumed he was staff. He politely asked if he could speak to me. Of course. Don't mind me looking at my phone while we speak. I asked him if the empty container he had was his dinner. Yes, he said. I then asked, do you actually work here? Yes, he said with little confidence. Some vague chat. His voice was soft and quiet. Eventually I said I said I must rejoin my friends. Ok, he said. I will call you later. I replied, sure, please do. But he did not have my phone number. What was that all about, but I didn't give much thought to it until the next day when I heard the hotel compound security had been breached. Apparently this lad got in and he should not have. Our Kruger Park guide was going ballistic at management. Do you realise how much cash we are carrying and how much we have in our rooms overnight. 

R gleefully informed everyone how I was involved in the security breach. Well, no damage done. The breacher of security lad did have the prettiest of eyes but I can well imagine him going through things to find some loot. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Newcastle upon Hunter

I would laugh if it wasn't so depressing. Ok, I did laugh. An Australian town makes Spanish comedy tv! It is not in a good way though. I know all about this matter and it is a disgrace. Rum and rebellion (corruption) is still alive and well in New South Wales. You don't need the sound on, as it is in Spanish, and there are subtitles. But you may want to hear his excruciating laugh. I had the sound on and I think it added to the clip. He was just so incredulous, and justifiably so.


Ironically as someone commented, the trams that run the light rail service are Spanish built. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

South Africa Day 12

Our accommodation just outside Kruger Park was very disappointing and at that point I think we realised why our holiday was so cheap. We were there for three nights and it had air con, but the rest we just dealt with. It is a pity as the bar was terrific, as were the two pools, one heated, and we had more free drinks than we could consume and the food was good. It was run by a husband and wife couple and they were so nice. But, our room was very basic, to say the least. I would rate the room as 1 star. The place itself, 3.5 plus. A lovely Ford Galaxy sat under cover for the three nights we were there.


This is our transport for the day, nine passengers per vehicle. Not so easy to get up into, even harder to get down. The driver and guide was a youngish man whose family grew up in the park, his father having a significant role within the organisation that runs the park. He was a nice guy, very knowledgeable about the wildlife and especially birds, he being a bird watcher himself.  We entered the park using the Malelane Gate. Our guide told us he is usually pretty well waved through, but some federal enforcement officers had taken over the gate for the day and were checking everything and everyone, by the book.


A bird of prey, an eagle I think.


I thought I had taken a photo of a blue bird. Instead once seeing the photo, it is a chameleon.


More giraffe.


I loved the zebra.





Two giraffe together do stand like this, keeping a lookout for any threat.


Someone called out they had seen a tortoise beside the road as we passed by. Everyone seemed a bit doubtful, including the guide, but he reversed back, and sure enough, it was a leopard tortoise. They are not seen very often.


Warthog, a pig in other words.


I had only seen the Asian elephant in real life. The African elephant is huge! Its ears are immense too, and flapping them can cool the animal. Be alert and alarmed if an African elephant flaps its ears in your presence. Dumbo is not happy.


Vultures, behaving with more decency than our Australian financial institutions.


Sleepy. Could we pat him, someone asked.


A kudu.


More elephants in the water.


I am not sure which variety of antelope this one is. We also saw klipspringer, which jump around on rocky outcrops with more skill than a goat. They can jump up over seven metres into the air. Also spotted earlier were steenbok and waterbuck.


It had been a very long morning and it was time for lunch. The couple of places we had been the day before and for morning tea were quite crowded with visitors. It was just a normal weekday. So our guide suggested we come to his club, the golf club that is in the Kruger administrative town Skukuza where he grew up. He told us about his best friend at school who had been visiting him at home when they were preteen. They had been playing Nintendo or one of those such games on the tv. His friend left to walk home and on the way was killed by leopard. He showed us a small memorial plaque in front of the house where his friend lived. About one year later a woman walking in the street was also killed by a leopard.


Some of the wildlife that has visited Skukuza Golf Club.


It was a really nice centrepiece for the table at the club (no, not right. Must have been at the evening barbeque). This safari business is thirsty work. I went to the bar. Here is clip of what I wrote on FB at the time. It was quite funny at the time.

"Come to my club for lunch", said our guide, and we dutifully trooped to the lovely golf club overlooking a river within Kruger Park. "Two gin and tonics", I asked. Sorry Sir, no gin. Two glasses of red wine? Sorry, Sir, only bottles for sale, bulk has run out. Whisky and soda? Which Scotch Sir? I chose one. Sorry Sir, no soda water, but you could have lemonade! Nah, you have beer? He then reeled out the beers. Umm, so sorry, could we just have normal beer. Finally we were at one. The lad knew about normal beer.


Such minor inconveniences are easily explained away by locals with the phrase, it is Africa.


This lion was so funny, asleep with his leg resting up on the trunk of a tree.


Hard to see the kudu within the trees.


This looks like it would have been an impressive bird to show you, but I  missed the head. Unusual feet.

Buffalo.


Less than three metres away. Scary.


A sight once familiar to Queenslanders, burning the sugar cane.


I did not get a a good enough photo, but we saw some impala alert and alarmed, jumping in to the air as they do when alerting each other to a threat. Our guide wondered why. A minute later we saw a pack of African wild dogs moving through the scrub. What interesting animals they are. Here is a photo from World Wildlife Fund.


While the next night would be our last night together as a group, it would be an ordinary style buffet meal at the airport hotel back in J'burg. So, a splendid barbeque was put on for us this night by the hotel where we were staying. Great fun was had by all. I made an effort with the Filipinos, but I did not connect with them. Those from Trinidad Tobago were ok, the women being rather pushy. The Asian people from the US, only one I really liked because he had a great sense of humour. We grew very fond of the Irish lasses, all as different as chalk and cheese, but they were just so great.



Whatever attracted the mass of vultures, not a skerrick of anything was left when we returned some hours later. Australian bankers confess their sins after all meat on a skeleton has been stripped away. 



One minute of elephants doing what they do. We did see one elephant uproot one of those small scraggly trees to get to the roots underneath. A herd of about twenty eventually walked across the road in front of us, including a juvenile and a baby.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

South African rant

This is much unfinished, but publish and be damned. Large photo posts take a long time to compose, and as we draw towards the end of holiday, I am still working on the last big post. I will write a bit more though about our experience in South Africa, from a personal aspect.

In my youthful years I was passionately against Ian Smith in Rhodesia. Smith was eventually tossed away at the behest of Britain and the world, and Rhodesia went on to become become Zimbabwe with equal rights for black people. Job done, but then it all went so horribly wrong in Zimbabwe as white people were the elite and subjected to attacks by black people which was and still is as much about the poor uprising against the rich. Unfortunately it is skin colour that boils down to who owns what. Whites in Zimbabwe don't own much now and most have left. The country is now a basket case and while it should be able to at least feed itself, it can barely do so. Colonialism was not a good thing, but what has followed with independence has not been good either.

Ipso facto it would follow that I was also anti apartheid in South Africa. What right minded person could not be. Surely the black people in South Africa should have equal rights and a vote. It came to pass in the 1990s after a long campaign which included the hero of South Africa, Nelson Mandela and many others, including some white people. My thoughts about South Africa before we visited, was that a brutal and corrupt white political elite had been replaced by a brutal and corrupt black political elite. I may not have been wrong about that.

Yet, it is a functioning country. There are a few old white people still in the political elite, but I don't think many now. White people are still in a position of power in many areas of business and commerce. The serving class is mostly black. While our service staff were mostly black, at times there was a white person who was not in charge but just doing the same service job as black people. But yes, in most places it was white bosses in charge of black staff.

There is an official government policy to employ more black people than white. There is quite a number of unemployed white people in South Africa, and some who are quite poor.

South Africa has eleven official languages but most chat is in Afrikaans, which is Dutch and German based with some local African language thrown in. Formal business and commerce is mostly conducted in English. Generally anyone who is a tourist would come across could speak both Afrikaans and English.

Afrikaans seems to be spoken loud and it is a guttural language, with rolling rs and throaty stuff like Arabic. African people have no problem with speaking to people a long distance away. It can feel a little threatening to meek people like us.

At the end of the day, I have no idea of what black and white relationships are like in South Africa. One of our stupid politicians said that white farmers from South Africa should be given immigration priority as they were being killed on their farms by black people at a rapid rate. I came across a really good fact check South Africa website. Yes, some white farm owners have been killed, but it is mostly robbery or a labour dispute problem. Generally white people are very safe in South Africa. The murder rate among black people is much higher. If any farmers in South Africa should be given priority entrance to Australia, it is probably black farm owners who are also under threat.

I think I've already recounted this in a comment, but one day during a break of our coach travel, we came across the slowest ATM ever. A black man was using it, and we wondered why he was pissing around. His transaction eventually concluded and he was followed by a dark haired white woman. I didn't hear what was said, but the white woman said, don't worry. I am a local. You are quite safe here. Her transaction took just as long as the black person's, as did ours.

We still had plenty of time before we had to board the coach. We walked around the corner with the intention of going to the big shopping centre we could see. But there were loud black men everywhere and it being Friday evening, some were drunk. I, who would normally say, we have a perfect right to walk to the shopping centre among all these black men, was quite pleased when R said, I think we better go back. I did not argue.

We boarded our coach and it turned the same corner we had walked. I saw an about 60 year old  white woman in tailored clothing, hair beautifully coiffed, good and quite heavy makeup, dripping in gold bling, step out of her Mercedes and walk among all the black men into the shopping centre. Those at the bottom of the socio economic end, who have been discriminated against because they are black, did not attack the rich white woman and would not have attacked us. I really wonder why.

For me it is an intangible thing, pride in equality, but post Apartheid all those black men became a equal to that white woman in theory, and to us. I think if I was a black man, I would pleased and satisfied with that, but not the mostly, not always, inequality of wealth between blacks and whites in South Africa. I remember when Apartheid ended that there were quite a number of white working class people who did manual labour. I wonder what happened to them?

But what would do as a white South African? More specifically concerning your children. Flee the country for your children's better future? Hang on in there and see how things go? A difficult decision many will face.

South Africa is not for understanding. There is an important vote before parliament soon about whether white South African farmers should have their farms taken away from them without compensation. I can only suggest to the black people of South Africa, do you want to go down the road of Rhodesia? Black people in South Africa, take you pride in that you are equal to white people and you are advantaged in the employment market.  Get your children well educated and they will be in positions of power, government, education, technology and commerce in years to come. It will take some time for anything like economic equality but it will happen, and without upsetting the applecart.

Monday, November 19, 2018

South Africa Day 11

We weren't too far from Kruger Park and the next day we explored Kruger Park through our coach windows.

I cannot remember where we saw this peacock.


Bananas growing. A warmer place than Melbourne.


It was an abnormally long truck, so I suppose the sign is appropriate.


We did not partake, but did admire the fountain.


There are a few entrances to Kruger National Park. Our coach entered using the Paul Kruger Gate.


He was once a South African president and was founder of the park.


He is a grim looking figure, for sure.


I did not realise the significance of this monument and so I did not take an overview photo.



Bless the rangers of Kruger Park who can be murdered in their line of duty.


Helpful.


Poisonous, so why have them everywhere at the gateway to Kruger Park?


Impala.


Blue starling, I think.


They are in pest numbers, but quite an attractive bird.


Look closely and you will see some mischievous visitors on this wonderful old train bridge.


So, through the bus windows, we saw many creatures, great and small. Giraffe.


Elephants.



Rhino. There are no stats published on the number of white rhino in South Africa, as to do so might indicate that poaching is no big issue. So many still get killed by poachers for rhino horn, something that is actually a combination of hair and fingernail material.



Bird nests.


Grace? Sami? What bird it this?


Naughty monkeys at our lunch stop.



I don't know this bird either. Perhaps it just a peacock.


The bird that was in the tree, now on the ground.


One very large termite mound.


Kudu, I believe.


I can't remember what this animal was called, but its upper back ruff identifies it.


Baboons.


The giraffe and the zebra did not bother each other, which is how our coach was seen by the animals. Our coach was not a threat and benign, and so accepted as another non threatening creature of the park by the animals.


I really liked the zebras.


I can't remember these animals at all.


A hippo below a bridge.


Elephants love water. They love mucking about in water, and they were.


But just twenty metres away was this log of wood.........or perhaps it isn't. 


Here a couple of brief videos I took, zebra crossing.


He seems to be rather more attracted to her than she does to him.



What a wonderful place is Kruger Park.